Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Is someone watching over me?

When we moved over here to the bay area, we effectively started our life over. Only available cash I had was salary and some savings which were used to set up home here. All my equity was locked in the small house we own in the UK. So we rented. Property prices were climbing, and people kept saying to me "you should get in now before the prices get totally out of reach", but I always said "No, will buy when I am ready to and not before". We had no available down payment, we didn’t even know at the time whether we’d get our green cards and would be able to stay long term (although that was unlikely to fall through, I’m not a betting man), and as I saw it we had certain short term benefits as a renter that we’d have to deal with ourselves as a homeowner. So when it got close to bringing my family over in July of 2005, we found a lovely house for rent in the lovely town of Pleasanton, and moved as quickly as possible to get in.
The rent was a bit higher than I was originally looking to pay, but we fell in love with the place (me in person, and my wife from the pictures) when I came out to view it, and so we signed up for a 1 year lease on the spot, hoping we’d be able to renew. Sure enough, at the end of the year, the owners extended the lease, this time for 2 years, so we are now here at least until July 2008, and we have first refusal on buying the place if at that time they want to sell (and by then, we might be in a position to buy). If they don’t we simply renew the lease for however long is an option and here we stay.
Anyway – all that is good, but today I get an e-mail from the guy I shared a house with for the 8 months I was here without the family. The e-mail had a link to an article from a local guy who watches the housing market closely. I knew things were slowing down, but didn’t quite expect what I read…
Bottom line is he recommends doing what I’d set out to do 2 years back. He says "If you want to buy, look around and see that house prices are falling. Why hurry to buy into a falling market? Save your cash and buy for much less in the future. Find a nice cheap rental, sit back, and enjoy the show till then." For me when I made the decision, house prices weren’t falling, but having lived through one burst housing bubble in the UK, I could see the signs here. 
So I’m sat here in a lovely 2800 sq ft rented house in a nice town (but with an hour commute), not having to worry about any of the stuff that a homeowner would be worried with, while I have colleagues who at the height of the price increases early last year shelled out on $million plus mortgages to buy a 1700 sq ft bungalow close to the office, and who are now looking at a negative equity bubble. Sort of makes you wonder if this was meant to happen.
Really funny thing is… as I type this, the cloud from the overnight rain is clearing and the sun is punching through. Not sure I’m a person who believes in signs, but sometimes I wonder….

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